MIAMI -- The Marlins wrapped up the Winter Meetings on Thursday without making a deal for J.T. Realmuto, but they gained more clarity on what the market is for their All-Star catcher.
The field is down to about six teams, MLB.com has confirmed, and Miami keeps working toward finding a match for arguably the best catcher in the game. The Mets, Braves, Dodgers, Rays, Reds and Padres are considered the primary front-runners.
The Marlins have not budged on their demands for Realmuto, who is entering his second year of arbitration.
While the Marlins are open to the best overall package, there is an important factor that fits into the equation. Who would replace Realmuto behind the plate in Miami?
It's a topic president of baseball operations Michael Hill addressed a couple of days ago at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
"I think you have to look at all of that," Hill said. "That's part of this process that you work through."
The Marlins are aware they are not going to replace Realmuto's overall production, but they'd like to have a veteran to handle a young staff.
"The trades that we made [last year], we brought back over 18 pitchers," Hill said. "The success of our pitching is really going to impact our overall organizational success. You want to make sure that no matter what happens, you're covering an important part of your club. And that you have a person who is going to take care of your pitchers as you continue to build. That means your pitchers continue to mature and turn into the championship pieces you think they can be."
Not that the Marlins are necessarily targeting a catcher to be the centerpiece of a potential Realmuto trade, but if one is included, it would help fill a void. Otherwise, Miami would have to explore free agency or make another trade.
Of the six teams believed to be the most aggressive, each has a veteran option who could be part of a trade: Tucker Barnhart (Reds), Tyler Flowers (Braves), Kevin Plawecki (Mets), Mike Zunino (Rays), Austin Hedges (Padres) and Austin Barnes (Dodgers).
The internal candidates for the Marlins are Chad Wallach, who is on the 40-man roster, and John Holaday -- Realmuto's primary backup in 2018. But Holaday is a non-roster invitee and not guaranteed a roster spot.
Both also are viewed as backups.
The catcher of the future is Will Banfield, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 8 prospect. But Banfield just turned 19 in November, and he still is a few years away from being big league ready.